Phil Tooley takes a look at the game and its context
Chesterfield 4 York City 0 National League Game #16
The two 21st-century Chesterfield teams that were considered free-flowing, free-scoring, we’ll score more goals than you, were Nick Law’s 2000/01 and John Sheridan’s 2010/11 teams. Beckett and Reeves (backed up by Parrish and Williams), Davies and Lester (plus Whitaker and Smalley). Both teams easy on the eye, both teams won promotion, both teams scored for fun. After 16 league games, Law’s marauders had scored an impressive 37 goals whilst Shez’s raiders had banged in 35.
This season, Paul Cook’s side has notched up a highly impressive 40 goals in the opening 16 games, with more than two-thirds of them being scored in the second-half. That gives significant fuel to my theory that Town’s pressing intensity, particularly in the first-half of games, wears down the opponents significantly to allow there to be more space, more opportunities and therefore more goals after the break.
The previous NL home game, the 2-0 win over Bromley, was hewn out of the same approach and the one before that, 3-2 against Wealdstone, also saw all Chesterfield’s goals being scored from 46 onwards. Chuck in Quigs’ last-minute winner over FC Halifax Town, and that’s ten consecutive SMH Group Stadium goals for the Spireites in the second-half. Over the season to date, in league and Cup, 23 of Town’s 28 goals home goals (82%) have been second-half strikes. Future bus parkers beware, social media early birds, avoid half-time prognostications that don’t date well, PC’s lads are fit for purpose.
Changes galore again, 5-4-1 in opposition, tough start (in terms of initially trying to wade through treacle) before purple patch Ollie Banks began to threaten to pick open the lock to the bus, and the belief that he had the key in his pocket was confirmed when he opened the scoring just after the break, fine shot.
Another fine shot put Tom Naylor momentarily at the top of the scoring charts with his sixth NL goal (and seventh in all). This is season #16 for him, and six league goals equals his best-ever seasonal tally (once for Burton Albion and once for Portsmouth), though including cup games, he did manage eight for the season for Pompey in 2020/21, so one to level that with a minimum of 32 remaining games to get there! Good odds.
Top-Tom’s position was short-lived. Will Grigg followed up Banks’s shot and finished from close range after Rory Watson was unable to hold the initial effort, and the striker’s personal duel with the keeper continued when he nicked the ball from him after a poor touch outside the box, close to the goal line, and Spireites #9 left-footed the ball home from an impossible angle from closer to the corner flag than the near post. Terrific goal.
Will told me after the game that of his many goals, only four had previously come from shots from outside the box shots, and none of those four had been left-footers, so what we witnessed was a career first for a man who’s bagged over 150, and none of them had been even close to resembling his eighth of the season. A great goal in its own right, and a goal that is a microcosm of the spirit and endeavour of #Cookball, and a moment that sums up the never-say-die approach of this squad.
Grigg’s incredible work ethic, plus his two goals, prompted co-commentator Jamie Hewitt to announce him as Man of the Match, the standing ovation he got moments after that second confirmed his quality.
For me, that MOTM short-list also needed to have included the form man, Banks, plus someone who has transformed his game of late, Branden Horton. His mileage count must have been as impressive as the quality of play he demonstrated in both halves of the park.
But all of this will count for zip if we don’t see the same intensity and the same reward of three points at struggling Kidderminster Harriers at the weekend. They came away from form-team Altrincham with a more than creditable away draw on Tuesday, meaning they’re on a run of just one loss in five in league and Cup.
In eight home NL games, they’ve scored just four goals, won once (1-0 v Wealdstone) and they’ve racked-up three scoreless draws at Aggborough, only conceding six there, so it’s got the look of another game where patience is required.
P16 W13 D2 L1 F40 A21 PTS 41. Seasonalised (and I know it doesn’t work like that), it looks like this:
P46 W37 D6 L3 F118 A60 PTS 117.
In club history (and the numbers have all been adjusted to the points for a win and 46 games a season for comparative purposes), most wins in a season = 30, fewest defeats in a season = six, most goals in a season = 112, most points in a season = 96.
Whichever way you look at it, the opening third of this season has been remarkable. Carry on like this and Barnet last-gasp goals are irrelevant.
Phil’s Positive: Once the stubborn York defence was cracked open, the Spireites looked like a ruthless winning machine. Ollie Banks always looked like the key-carrier and his goal unlocked the rearguard and from that point onwards, three points looked totally assured.
Next Match: Saturday, October 28, our first visit to Aggborough in 23 years and only our second overall. Struggling Kidderminster Harriers have played Chesterfield three times, lost three times and have yet to score a goal. Same again please. Coverage starts on 1866 Sport at 2pm.
Chesterfield (4-2-3-1 to start): Boot; Mandeville, Williams, Grimes, Horton; Naylor, Jones; Jacobs (Berry 76), Banks, Dobra (Colclough 68); Grigg (Curtis 83). Subs (not used): Freckleton, Sheckleford.
Goals: Banks 49, Naylor 61, Grigg 72, 82 (Chesterfield)
Referee: Aaron Bannister
Bookings: Dobra (Chesterfield), Castro (York)
Attendance: 6,933 (554 from York)
Netcoms IT 1866 Sport Man of the Match: Will Grigg (chosen by Jamie Hewitt)